Todd Bishop

New Jazz This Week: Todd Bishop, Baloni, Busnoys

Dave Sumner

By Dave Sumner

on 07.16.14 in News

Very slow week this week in the Jazz section, but some curious albums that sit way way way out on the fringes take the opportunity to grab the spotlight. Fans of the Clean Feed label will be kept busy the next couple of weeks, with two of the new batch dropping today. A couple of the recommendations this week feature artists who were Jazz Picks back around when I was first putting this column together, and it’s interesting to hear how their sound has developed in the meantime. Hopefully you’ll find some interest, too. Let’s begin…

Todd Bishop Group, Travelogue: Solid new release from drummer Bishop, following on the heels of Little Played Little Bird, his reinterpretation of obscure Ornette Coleman tunes, and one of the best things released in 2012. This time around, he gets closer to a straight-ahead modern post-bop sound, but the same odd fluidity he brought to Coleman’s music, he applies here, too, making straight-ahead music move in directions other than straight. A quartet session with Weber Iago on piano and Rhodes, Chris Higgins on bass, and Richard Cole on a variety of wind instruments. Best tracks on the album have Cole performing on bass clarinet and bass saxophone. Just plain enjoyable.

Baloni, Belleke: An odd sort of chamber jazz recording, where the expected elegance is eschewed for a gawky, captivating motion. The trio of violist Frantz Loriot,, bassist Pascal Niggenkemper, and Joachim Badenhorst on clarinet, bass clarinet and sax. The range of expressionism has a breadth of uneasy serenity all the way to a crashing wave of dissonance, yet despite the varying degrees of silence and sound, the songs all sound part of a cohesive image. The shifting tides of “Feuertreppe” are both ferocious and stunningly beautiful.

Hernan Rio & Facundo Guevara, Pregunta y Pregunta: A strong Latin Jazz recording, primarily of Argentinean music influence, but not to the exclusion of other influences. The drummer-pianist duo offers up lively music with a very free motion. Songs aren’t structured so much as they’re corralled. The result allows the duo some space to really play with the rhythmic elements while still offer up melodies that aren’t getting pulled in multiple directions. The rendition of Mingus’s “Goodbye Porkpie Hat” is worth the price of admission alone.

Busnoys, Weaving the Spell: The Busnoys trio, a vibes-bass-drum combo, harkens back to the late-60s, when inside/out was becoming more of the latter (avant-garde) and less of the former (bop/blues conventional). Vibraphonist Martin Pyne adds in some electronics for this session. Jeff Spencer’s bass guitar adds an appealingly different feel than an upright would have, and drummer Trevor Davies knows how to fill the silences that dot the landscape of this album without dispelling the ambiance derived from them. Violinist Gina Griffin guests on a track, and quite frankly, it’s sufficiently wonderful that I’m calling out Busnoys to include her on the entirety of their next release.

Alan Chan Jazz Orchestra, Shrimp Tale: Nice and easy disposition to this big band debut from composer Chan. Music that emanates the heart of a trad big band recording, but has some moves that indicate a thought to modern footwork. Serves as a nice showcase of the depth of the L.A. jazz scene. Guest vocalists on a couple tracks is a nice touch, weaves some lovely textures into the massive big band canvas.

Joe Morris Quartet, Balance: Like one massive conversation built entirely on patterns of word association, the quartet of guitarist Joe Morris, bassist Chris Lightcap, violist Mat Maneri, and drummer Gerald Cleaver present a very linear sonic experience, where parallel lines of creativity aren’t joined as one so much as share a common space so small it gives the impression of cohesion. Skittering free tunes featuring warped melodic fragments, it’s the rhythmic concepts that are the reason for the season here. A few tracks, like “Trust” and “Substance” have the quartet come together in some form of consensual unison, but for the most part, the action is in that motional gravity keeps free bodies in a concentrated stream.

Carlo Muscat, The Sound Catalogues: Likable straight-ahead session from the sextet of saxophonist Carlo Muscal, guitarist Sandro Zerafa, trumpeter Daniele Raimondi, pianist Joe Debono, bassist Matyas Szandai, and drummer Lionel Boccara. The group sets that melody down right at the start, then steps up and launches into the tune from there. This, in turn, leads to some nice solos and group interplay. Nothing earth-shattering here, but plenty of decent tunes to warrant a mention.

Beebe, Beebe’s Nursery Time Jazz: Nice straight-ahead quartet session featuring multi-reedist Chris “Beebe” Aldridge, pianist Steve Tromans, bassist Tom Hill, and drummer Miles Levin. The album has its weak spots, but there are some solid tunes here as well. The use of bass clarinet on “A Windmill in Old Amsterdam” is delightful, and the quartet’s strong presence on “Go to Sleep… Now!” is quite absorbing. Mostly up-tempo tunes, which seems to speak to the quartet’s strength when they stick together as a unit… but when the musicians break off from one another, the songs tend to lose their appeal. But enough here that I wanted to get in a quick mention.

And now let’s end with a few that are pretty much far out on the fringes of Jazz that they might not even qualify anymore… but so damn compelling they needed to be included in the column.

A Favola da Medusa, Dada Dandy: The Lisbon-based experimental outfit A Favola da Medusa has at its core the trio of multi-instrumentalist Miguel Martins, guitarist Filipe Homem Fonseca and harpist Ana Dias, with the focus on dadaist free-rock aesthetics. Joined by guests Sonia Montenegro, Bernardo Nascimento, George Haslam, and Rebecca Gradissimo, this collection of live and studio sessions is what avant-garde is all about. Soundscapes that drone and shout, dissonance that morphs into tiny expressions and massive constructs, and the sudden emergence of melodic interludes from the brutal din of dissonance that switch the perspective 180 degrees. Supremely engaging.

Tunto, Huvi: Led by guitarist Matti Wallenius, this vaguely world jazz recording is terrifically strange, yet undeniably tuneful. Similar in instrumentation and presentation to recent Jazz Pick, the ensemble I Think You’re Awesome, this odd mix of folk, jazz, pop, and avant-garde creates music with an incredible diversity but so easy to connect with. Definitely something different. Pick of the Week.

Lars Greve, Breidablik: Fascinating solo release from saxophonist/clarinetist Lars Greve, who creates a cinematic soundscape that is both comfortingly ambient and arrestingly distorted. Some beautiful moments that are just stunning. Worth noting that Greve is also a member of the Copenhagen Art Ensemble, a recent Pick of the Week.